The Vasa Museum, Stockholm: The amazing ship that sank almost immediately

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was an unmitigated disaster. The "unsinkable" cruise liner, launched with much fanfare from Southampton, hit an iceberg and sank midway through its voyage to New York City. 1500 died.

The sinking has become the stuff of legend, portrayed in books, films and music. Until 2009, James Cameron's film Titanic was the biggest box office hit of all time.

But in Stockholm, Sweden, visitors can find a lesser-known ship that also suffered a disastrous fate and, in many ways, was a bigger failure than the Titanic. Far from making it halfway into its journey, this ship didn't even make it out of the harbour.

The Vasa Museum, named after the ship itself, is dedicated to this disastrous launch and is one of the most popular attractions in the city.

It's not hard to see why. The museum was created entirely for this one ship, which was lost for more than 200 years before being rediscovered in a busy shipping lane just outside the city harbour and recovered in 1961. Incredibly, it was largely intact.

Built between 1626 and 1628, it is the only ship of the era to survive, making it extremely important in naval history.

The huge ship, 62 metres long, is incredibly impressive when seen up close at the museum. Elevated across several stories, the Vasa offers a rare glimpse inside the world of seafaring in the 17th century.

But broader historical significance aside, it's the unique story of this ship that really makes it fascinating. The warship, the largest ever built by the Swedish navy, was set to become the country's new flagship – its first with two gun decks, making it the most formidable ship in the fleet.

Upon its launch, the Vasa travelled long Stockholm's harbour where a strong gust of wind caught the sails and toppled the huge, tall ship. Its gun ports were open and water flooded in. It was underwater in minutes; 30 people drowned.


After initially blaming the captain and crew, a royal inquest eventually realised the ship designed by shipbuilder Henrik Hybertsson, who had died during its construction, was simply too tall and narrow to sail.

It had travelled about 1300 metres before sinking.

Without the technology to recover the ship, it was buried under silt over time and disappeared until, in 1956, it was rediscovered by amateur archaeologist Anders Franzen. It took four years to salvage it from the cold waters of the harbour, using a series of cables tunnelled under the wreck and floating pontoons – a painstaking process that is covered in detail at the museum.

Reassembled to something resembling its former glory, it now sits in the museum on the city's island of Djurgarden, safe from the winds and waters that claimed it for 333 years.

Trip notes

More information

Entry to the Vasa Museum is 130SEK ($20) for adults, free for under 18s. Opening hours vary depending on the season. See

Getting there

Etihad flies from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth to Abu Dhabi, with connections to Berlin through Air Berlin. From there, several airlines fly to Stockholm.

Staying there

Hotel Kungstradgarden is a stylish, boutique hotel overlooking the Kungstradgarden (King's Garden). The 18th-century building completed a major renovation and reopened to guests early in 2015. It's a 20-minute walk or short tram ride to the Vasa Museum.



Off the Map Travel specialises in luxury adventure tours with a focus on Scandinavia and can arrange activities, transfers and accommodation. See

Craig Platt travelled as a guest of Off the Map Travel, Etihad and Air Berlin.

See also: Titanic Belfast named Europe's best tourist attraction

See also: On board the world's biggest cruise ship